Palo Alto Plantation opens its doors

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
gfischer@weeklycitizen.com
A swing hangs from an oak in the yard.

The neat, hidden-gem-thing is alive in Donaldsonville, La. One of those places that qualifies is just outside the city limits, known as Palo Alto Plantation.

Located at the corner of LA-1 and LA-944, along Bayou Lafourche is the front of the property. Nowadays, it is still very much a 6500-acre working sugar cane and soy farm. While Peter Lemann does not have much to do with that aspect of it, he lives in the house at the entrance to the farm. It is a house he grew up in, and it has been his family's home for at least four generations.

The home well outdates The Donaldsonville Chief, which has served the city since 1871. The home has been in Peter's family since 1847. He spends time there with his partner, DeeDee DiBenedetto. LyAnn Romashyna, a dedicated member of the Cajun Army also lives on the property in a separate cabin with her husband, a former Cirque du Soleil gymnast.

So yeah yeah old house, generations and interesting people. What's the point? Well, the plantation style home, full of fat oaks and rich greenery is finally opening its doors.

"We're opening up as an event venue," Romashyna said. "We're preparing to host weddings here. And parties and events and things like that. We already have a one-bedroom cottage that was originally the kitchen of the plantation, which we've opened as an Airbnb."

For instance, Palo Alto has scheduled a bride-to-be for a photo shoot later this week. Saturday, a paranormal investigating team paid the home a visit to test for a ghostly presence, which DiBenedetto believes is friendly.

"It's the paranormal society of New Orleans," Romashyna said. "[DiBenedetto] has had several people contact her over the years."

Romashyna also claims to have "seen a few things," as far as paranormal goes.

"So far, I feel like everything is friendly," she said. "I'm not trying to scare you or freak you out."

This month marks the first time a guest stayed at the Airbnb cottage, which by the way is not out-of-the-question for travel to an LSU football game.

"LyAnn is the Plantation Manager, the marketing, the dishwaher, everything," Dibenedetto said.

She added that just in the days since the property was posted it already got 1500 hits online. Of course, if you are from Donaldsonville it is likely that you know of the Lemann Center or Lemann's Farm Supply. It is all the same family.

"They're staples in Donaldsonville."

Furthermore, two movie crews have recently shown interest in shooting on site. This does not come as a surprise. It is one of the most photographic homes I have ever seen. They say the house was designed by James Dakin, who also designed the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Not only that, the artist Marie Adrien Persac painted the home once or twice in his day.

A company has just come down from out-of-state and toured the property, according to Romashyna. She said they are interested in partnering to even host national events.

"I'm excited to see some of the younger folks getting involved and wanting to do this," Lemann said. "I'm humbled by it. Period."

For more information on Palo Alto please visit https://www.facebook.com/visitpaloaltoplantation/ or call 225-290-0894.